New Mexico State's Pascal Siakam, left, is fouled by Northern New Mexico's Daniel Delgado during their NCAA college basketball game in Rio Rancho, N.M., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/The Albuquerque Journal via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Adolphe Pierre-Louis/The Albuquerque Journal via AP

Western Athletic Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

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The regular season in the WAC played out the way many expected it to. Even with Grand Canyon and CSU Bakersfield well positioned to challenge reigning champion New Mexico State, in the end Marvin Menzies’ Aggies were simply too much for the competition. With the conference’s best player in Pascal Siakam leading the way, New Mexico State will arrive at the Orleans Arena the prohibitive favorite to cut down the nets for a fifth consecutive season. And with Grand Canyon still in their Division I transitional period there’s one less challenger capable of stopping the Aggies from doing so.

The Bracket


When: March 10-12

Where: Orleans Arena, Las Vegas

Final: March 12, 11:00 p.m. (ESPNU)

Favorite: New Mexico State

The Aggies went 13-1 in WAC play, with the lone defeat being a four-point loss at Grand Canyon back on January 9. Siakam led the way, averaging 18.8 points, 12.4 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game while shooting 54.6 percent from the field in conference games (all tops in the WAC). Guard Ian Baker is one of the conference’s best perimeter shooters, and the Aggies have a host of other contributors capable of stepping forward on any given night. Them not winning the tournament would be a significant surprise.

And if they lose?: CSU Bakersfield

If there’s one team in the field that has a shot at matching up with Siakam and the rest of the NMSU front court, it’s Rod Barnes’ Roadrunners. Veterans Aly Ahmed and Kevin Mays have been good all season long for the two-seed, which has four players averaging at least 11 points per game (guards Dedrick Basile and Damiyine Durham being the other two players). With a defense that is one of best in the WAC, Bakersfield is the team with the best shot at dethroning New Mexico State.

Other Contenders:

  • Seattle: The three-seed has had its share of issues on the offensive end of the floor, but the Redhawks limited WAC opponents to 40.4 percent shooting from the field. That being said, there’s a clear drop-off from CSU Bakersfield on down with the Roadrunners having defeated Seattle by convincing margins in both meetings.

WAC Player of the Year: Pascal Siakam, New Mexico State

In conference games Siakam led the WAC in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage and blocked shots. Regardless of what opponents attempted to do to slow him down, the sophomore was still productive and that benefitted his teammates as well.

WAC Coach of the Year: Marvin Menzies, New Mexico State

A case can be made for Grand Canyon’s Dan Majerle, whose team finished the regular season with a 25-6 record. But when your team is as dominant as New Mexico State was, with their lone WAC defeat coming by four points, you get the trophy. Menzies won his first Don Haskins Coach of the Year award last March, and given the work he’s done with this year’s team he should win it for a second consecutive season.

First-Team All-WAC:

  • Pascal Siakam, New Mexico State (POY)
  • Aly Ahmed, CSU Bakersfield: Ahmed averaged 13.1 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in conference play,
  • Kevin Mays, CSU Bakersfield: Mays was one of the best defenders in the WAC, and his 8.3 rebounds per contest in WAC games ranked third in the conference. GCU’s Grandy Glaze also has a good argument here.
  • Ian Baker, New Mexico State: Baker averaged 12.3 points per game and shot 37.7 percent from three in conference games, but his value is about more than the raw numbers.
  • Joshua Braun, Grand Canyon: Averaging 18.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per contest in WAC play, Braun ranked in the top ten in the WAC in scoring (t-1st), rebounding (tenth) and field goal percentage (tenth).

PREDICTION: New Mexico State takes care of business, earning another trip to the NCAA tournament.

Big West Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

Hawaii's Stefan Jankovic, right, dribbles past UC Davis' J.T. Adenrele during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Big West Conference tournament, Friday, March 13, 2015, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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As expected the Big West season was a competitive one, with Hawai’i and UC Irvine sharing the regular season title and Long Beach State and UCSB both winning double digit games in conference play as well. Now comes the conference tournament, where the Rainbow Warriors are the top seed and will look to earn their first NCAA tournament bid since 2002. The road to the title won’t be an easy one however, as the Big West has multiple teams capable of cutting down the nets in Anaheim. Plus, the top seed hasn’t won this event since Long Beach State did so in 2012.

The Bracket


When: March 10-12

Where: Honda Center, Anaheim, California

Final: March 12, 11:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

Favorite: Hawai’i

Earning the top seed in the tournament not only got the Rainbow Warriors an automatic bid to the NIT should the need it, but it also keeps them away from the one team that they’ve struggled to match up with this season (Long Beach State) until the title game. Stefan Jankovic has been a much-improved player for the ‘Bows in the front court, and the presence of tough, talented guards such as Roderick Bobbitt, Quincy Smith and Aaron Valdes allows Hawai’i to get after teams defensively. While they were swept by The Beach, the ‘Bows did sweep both UC Irvine and UCSB.

And if they lose?: UC Irvine

Russell Turner’s Anteaters have won at least a share of two of the last three Big West regular season titles, and they’re a veteran group that has the talent needed to make a second straight trip to the NCAA tournament. 7-foot-6 junior center Mamadou Ndiaye serves as quite the deterrent in the middle of their zone defense, and guards Alex Young and Luke Nelson lead the way on the perimeter. UC Irvine led the Big West in many of the major statistical categories on the defensive end of the floor this season, which makes them a threat to take home the crown.

Other Contenders:

  • Long Beach State: As mentioned above Dan Monson’s 49ers swept the season series with Hawai’i. Nick Faust has been a great addition, and the development of sophomore PG Justin Bibbins has helped as well.
  • UCSB: The Gauchos have the Big West’s leading scorer in senior guard Michael Bryson (18.0 ppg in all games), and they’re also one of the Big West’s better defensive teams (second in FG% defense, first in 3PT% defense).

Big West Player of the Year: Stefan Jankovic, Hawai’i

After averaging 10.6 points and 4.9 rebounds per game in his first season at Hawai’i, the Missouri transfer took a significant step forward in 2015-16. Jankovic leads Hawai’i in both scoring (15.7 ppg) and rebounding (6.8 rpg), and he’s shooting 55.9 percent from the field and nearly 39 percent from three. In conference games, Jankovic averaged 16.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per contest, ranking in the top three in the Big West in both categories.

Big West Coach of the Year: Eran Ganot, Hawai’i

This is an easy choice. In his first season at the helm Ganot led the Rainbow Warriors to their first Big West title, and thanks to a sweep of the season series with UC Irvine they’ll be the top seed in Anaheim. Most of this rotation was on last year’s team that reached the Big West title game, including Roderick Bobbitt, Aaron Valdes and Stefan Jankovic, and Ganot was able to make this team even better. Add in dealing with an NCAA investigation that began prior to his arrival, and Ganot is the pick.

First-Team All-Big West:

  • Stefan Jankovic, Hawai’i (POY)
  • Nick Faust, Long Beach State: In conference games Faust averaged a Big West-best 18.4 points per game, doing so on 44.4 percent shooting from the field.
  • Michael Bryson, UCSB: Bryson averaged 16.7 points per game in Big West play, shooting nearly 48 percent from the floor, and grabbed 6.6 rebounds per contest.
  • Luke Nelson, UC Irvine: Nelson ranked eight in the Big West in scoring (15.2 ppg) and fourth in assists (4.1 apg) in conference games.
  • Mamadou Ndiaye, UC Irvine: Ndiaye averaged 12.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game in Big West play, and his mere presence on the floor changes the way in which opponents attack UC Irvine’s defense.

PREDICTION: Hawai’i ends the top seed’s recent run of futility in this tournament with a win over UC Irvine in the title game.

Mountain West Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

San Diego State forward Winston Shepard, playing in his last home game, celebrates in front of UNLV coach Todd Simon during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, March 5, 2016, in San Diego.  San Diego State won 92-56.(AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
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The Mountain West certainly had an interesting regular season. UNLV, expected to be a factor both within the league and nationally, took a nosedive early in conference play and arrives at the conference tournament (in their building, no less) with an undermanned rotation and an interim head coach. Fresno State and Boise State managed to finish second and third in the league, but a familiar face separated itself as the class of the Mountain West: San Diego State. The Aztecs still have their issues offensively, but Jeremy Hemsley has been one of the Mountain West’s best freshmen and they’ve got a veteran group that remains fully committed on the defensive end of the floor.

Steve Fisher’s team won the conference by three games, and they’ll be expected to handle their business in Las Vegas as well. But given how eventful this season has been for the Mountain West, with everything from blown calls that decided games (New Mexico/San Diego State and Boise State/Colorado State) to the conference presidents not telling the coaches of their decision to trim the field to eight teams beginning next season, this could end up being a basketball version of a Hunter S. Thompson book.

The Bracket 


When: March 9-12

Where: Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas

Final: March 12, 6:00 p.m. (CBS)

Favorite: San Diego State

Having played in six of the last seven Mountain West tournament title games (winning in 2010 and 2011), the Aztecs are used to having success in Las Vegas. That being said, the fact that the program hasn’t won the event since 2011 should serve as extra motivation this week.

San Diego State can still have the occasional lull offensively, as they ranked fifth in the Mountain West (conference games only) in field goal percentage (42.9 percent) and seventh in three-point percentage (32.8), but they have players who can make plays on that end of the floor. Jeremy Hemsley runs the show, fellow guard Trey Kell averaged 16.2 points per game in league play and Winston Shepard dished out 3.3 assists per game from the wing. But what makes this team go is their defense, as they led the Mountain West in both field goal and three-point percentage defense.

And if they lose?: Fresno State

Rodney Terry’s Bulldogs finished second in the Mountain West this season, with one of the conference’s best players in senior guard Marvelle Harris leading the way. In total Fresno State has seven players averaging at least 7.9 points per game, and they take better care of the basketball than any other team in the conference. The Bulldogs arrive in Vegas playing their best basketball of the season too, as they won six straight and eight of their last nine to end the regular season. Rebounding is a concern, especially with leading rebounder Torren Jones having missed the last ten games, but with Harris leading the way the Bulldogs have a shot.

Other Contenders:

  • Boise State: James Webb III’s health will be key here. If he’s in good physical condition the Broncos can win the whole thing, with Mikey Thompson, Anthony Drmic and Nick Duncan among the veterans capable of putting points on the board.
  • New Mexico: The Lobos have struggled with turnover issues throughout conference play. But in guard Elijah Brown and forward Tim Williams they have one of the better tandems in the Mountain West.

Sleeper: Nevada

First-year head coach Eric Musselman’s done a very good job with this group, which includes one of the best freshmen in the Mountain West in forward Cameron Oliver. The Wolf Pack won ten conference games, even with the departure of A.J. West early in the season. What complicates this choice is the health of Marqueze Coleman, and a tough matchup with New Mexico in the quarterfinals.

The Bubble Dwellers

  • San Diego State: Virtually any scenario involving the Aztecs as an at-large team includes their making Saturday’s title game. They’ll need to win two games in Las Vegas to have a shot given the non-conference schedule, which includes losses to San Diego (bad), Little Rock and Grand Canyon (both good teams, but Little Rock isn’t a bubble team either; GCU’s a provisional Division I member). Their best bet: remove all doubt and win the automatic bid.

Mountain West Player of the Year: Josh Adams, Wyoming

Fresno State’s Marvelle Harris certainly has a good argument here, given his individual excellence and the fact that he led his team to 13 conference wins. But the pick here is Adams because of how productive he was despite playing with a young supporting cast that virtually guaranteed that defenses were geared towards shutting him down. The senior still averaged 23.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game in Mountain West play. He also ranked in the top ten in field goal percentage, three-point percentage, steals and assist-to-turnover ratio.

Mountain West Coach of the Year: Steve Fisher, San Diego State

Fisher’s Aztecs were the class of the Mountain West by a wide margin, winning the conference by three games. When a team wins the conference by a comfortable margin, as was the case here, the head coach deserves to be rewarded. San Diego State’s defense grabbed the headlines, but they were also able to do enough offensively to separate themselves from the pack.

First-Team All-Mountain West:

  • Josh Adams, Wyoming (POY)
  • Marvelle Harris, Fresno State: Harris averaged 22.7 points and 4.5 assists per game in Mountain West play, ranking third in scoring and first in assists while also leading the conference in steals (2.6 per game).
  • Elijah Brown, New Mexico: Brown finished second in the conference behind Adams in scoring (22.9 ppg in conference play), and he was also ranked in the top ten in field goal percentage, assists, free throw percentage and three-point percentage.
  • Trey Kell, San Diego State: The champs deserve to have someone on the first team, and while Shepard could have an argument because of his versatility the pick here is Kell. He gave SDSU a much-needed offensive spark in league play.
  • James Webb III, Boise State: The preseason pick for Mountain West POY, Webb averaged 16.1 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game in conference play.

Second Team All-Mountain West:

  • Marqueze Coleman, Nevada
  • Patrick McCaw, UNLV
  • Antwan Scott, Colorado State
  • Winston Shepard, San Diego State
  • Tim Williams, New Mexico

Defining moment of the season: Boise State ends “The Streak”

CBT Prediction: San Diego State takes care of business, winning the automatic bid and earning a seventh straight trip to the NCAA tournament.

Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

Dayton head coach Archie Miller reacts during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016 in Dayton, Ohio. Dayton won, 76-74. (AP Photo/Tony Tribble)
(AP Photo/Tony Tribble)

The Atlantic 10 will be one of the most intriguing events to watch over the final few days before the NCAA tournament. Not only is the A-10 Tournament itself a wide-open field, filled with contenders who could win it all, but there are also four teams with NCAA tournament at-large concerns that could use some more wins before Selection Sunday. While Dayton looks to be comfortably in the field, VCU, St. Bonaventure, Saint Joseph’s and George Washington all find themselves on the bubble.

The conference tournament quarterfinals might feature a game that is essentially an NCAA tournament play-in game as No. 5 seed George Washington could face No. 4 seed Saint Joseph’s, as both teams could use another win for their profiles. Don’t be surprised if a lower-seeded team wins this event, either. The No. 4 or No. 5 seed has been the winner of the A-10 tournament in three of the last four years.

The Bracket 

2016_MBB_Bracket (1)

When: March 9-13

Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York

Final: Sunday, March 13, 12:30 p.m. (CBS)

Favorite: Dayton

The Flyers haven’t finished the regular season on the strongest of notes, but they’re still the No. 1 seed and the team with the best path to make the finals. With a balanced roster, the Flyers have a lot of experienced pieces who have been successful in March before as they’re led by Charles Cooke (15.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg), Dyshawn Pierre (12.6 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and Scoochie Smith (11.8 ppg, 4.1 apg). With a top-20 Kenpom defense, the Flyers can also be counted on to get consistent stops.

And if they lose?: VCU

Shaka Smart might be gone, but this is still a very talented Rams team that has a lot of experience. Senior Melvin Johnson (18.0 ppg) is one of the A-10’s best scorers while Korey Billbury (11.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg) and JeQuan Lewis (10.3 ppg, 4.9 apg) are also talented and experienced guards who can hit shots. Much like Dayton, VCU’s defense is rated in the top 20 on Kenpom and this group can really cause a lot of problems on that end of the floor.

Other Contenders:

  • St. Bonaventure: While Dayton and VCU can get stops, St. Bonaventure can really score. Marcus Posley, Jaylen Adams and Dion Wright are a tremendously potent trio on the offensive end.
  • Saint Joseph’s: The Hawks have dropped two straight heading into Barclays, but Isaiah Miles is tough to handle on the interior and DeAndre Bembry is one of the league’s best all-around players.

Sleeper: Davidson

With plenty of players who can put up points — including junior point guard Jack Gibbs, the nation’s third-leading scorer — the Wildcats are dangerous if they get hot. Besides Gibbs, Bob McKillop’s team has floor spacing and is one of the most efficient offenses in the conference.

The Bubble Dwellers:

  • Saint Joseph’s: Saint Joseph’s should be safe entering Atlantic 10 tournament week, but the Hawks only have two top-50 wins to their credit and they really need to avoid a bad loss to feel truly safe on Selection Sunday.
  • VCU: The Rams could have really helped their cause by beating Dayton in the final regular season game, but they lost in overtime. As long as VCU beats No. 7 seed Rhode Island or No. 10 seed UMass in the quarterfinals, they should feel safe. A second win wouldn’t hurt.
  • St. Bonaventure: The Bonnies have charged into the at-large conversation by going 10-2 in their final 12 games and a quarterfinal win should help their cause quite a bit. A quarterfinal loss would likely put St. Bonaventure in the NIT.
  • George Washington: Losing to Davidson to end the regular season was a huge loss for George Washington as they’ll likely need to win the Atlantic 10 tournament to make the field. The Colonials still have a prayer of an at-large chance if everything goes their way this week, but they would likely have to make the A-10 finals by beating Saint Joseph’s and Dayton and hope other results across college basketball go their way.

Atlantic 10 Player of the Year: DeAndre Bembry, Saint Joseph’s

The junior was remarkably consistent in stuffing the stat sheet once again for the Hawks as he averaged 17.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Bembry has scored in double-figures in every game this season and been huge in moving the ball within the offense as well. The 6-foot-6 Bembry also shot 47 percent from the field and dropped his turnovers to 2.1 per game in 36.8 minutes per contest.

Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year: Mark Schmidt, St. Bonaventure

St. Bonaventure was picked to finish eighth in the Atlantic 10 preseason coaches’ poll and the Bonnies ended up as co-regular season champions of the league along with Dayton and VCU. Things didn’t look so positive for Schmidt’s team after a 4-3 start in conference play, but St. Bonaventure closed out the regular season strong and are in position to make the NCAA tournament as an at-large team if they take care of business in Brooklyn this week.

First-Team All-Atlantic 10:

  • DeAndre Bembry, Saint Joseph’s (POY)
  • Jaylen Adams, St. Bonaventure: Marcus Posley had some big scoring performances, but Adams, a sophomore guard, was tremendous in conference play.
  • Jack Gibbs, Davidson: Third in the country in scoring during his junior season, Gibbs averaged 24.8 points, 4.9 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game.
  • Charles Cooke, Dayton: After sitting out a transfer season, Cooke picked up where he left off, averaging 15.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 1.2 steals per game.
  • Tyler Cavanaugh, George Washington: Another talented transfer, Cavanaugh put up 16.6 points, 7.5 rebounds per game for the Colonials while also adding additional floor-spacing with his 39 percent 3-point range.

Second Team All-Atlantic 10:

  • T.J. Cline, Richmond
  • Melvin Johnson, VCU
  • Marcus Posley, St. Bonaventure
  • Patricio Garino, George Washington
  • Isaiah Miles, Saint Joseph’s

Defining moment of the season: Marcus Posley dropped a Division I-season-high 47 points on March 2 as St. Bonaventure picked up a critical at-large win over Saint Joseph’s.

CBT Prediction: VCU makes a run to the A-10 title, picking off Dayton along the way and ensuring that Will Wade’s statue will be built in Richmond before Shaka Smart’s.

Pac-12 Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

Oregon's Dwayne Benjamin celebrates after dunking the ball over Southern California's Chimezie Metu, not pictured, while Oregon's Kendall Small, right, also reacts during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, March 5, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
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The expectation entering the season was that there were at least five teams capable of winning the Pac-12. Sure enough many of the expected contenders remained a factor for a significant portion of the season, with Oregon eventually rising as the class of the conference. Dana Altman’s Ducks went undefeated at home in Pac-12 play and finished above .500 on the road, which is generally a good formula to at the very least contend for a conference title. The play of Dillon Brooks, Elgin Cook and company may make Oregon the favorites in Las Vegas, but they’ll have plenty of challengers as well.

Utah has the conference’s Player of the Year in sophomore center Jakob Poeltl, Arizona and California both have talented rotations and teams such as Colorado, Oregon State, USC and Washington are all capable of making a run as well. As of right now the Pac-12 could be a seven-bid league depending upon not only what happens in Las Vegas but also in other conference tournaments across the country. This much is certain: given how balanced and talented the league is, whoever cuts down the nets Saturday night will have been pushed to their limit.

The Bracket

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 12.29.16 PM


When: March 9-12

Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas

Final: March 12, 10:00 p.m. (FS1)

Favorite: Oregon

The Ducks may have just a seven-man rotation, but it’s the versatility within that group that makes them so difficult to deal with. Dillon Brooks, Elgin Cook and Dwayne Benjamin are three forwards who can play just about anywhere on the floor. Freshman Tyler Dorsey can play either guard spot, and big man Chris Boucher is a 6-foot-10 senior who can score in the paint and also on the perimeter.

Both Boucher and Jordan Bell run the floor like gazelles and are incredibly active defensively, and point guard Casey Benson’s improved throughout the course of the season. They’ll score points thanks to the talent and Dana Altman’s offensive schemes. But if Oregon can make things happen defensively and get out in transition, they’re an incredibly tough team to beat.

And if they lose?: Utah

Utah’s rise from team that appeared to be headed towards the NCAA tournament bubble to second place in the Pac-12 is due in large part to the development of their perimeter rotation. Brandon Taylor’s embraced the facilitator role down the stretch, and Lorenzo Bonam’s made strides as well. The Runnin’ Utes can surround elite big man Jakob Poeltl with shooters, thus keeping the spacing that ultimately produces quality shots on a regular basis. Utah ranked second in the conference in field goal percentage defense and fourth in three-point percentage defense, and even with the occasional offensive issues they’ve been solid defensively.

Other Contenders:

  • Arizona: The Wildcats are still formidable, even with the end of their streak of two straight Pac-12 regular season titles. Gabe York’s been on fire of late, and with Ryan Anderson and Allonzo Trier leading the way Sean Miller’s team doesn’t lack for talent either.
  • California: The Golden Bears were the team many were waiting for to get going, and down the stretch they did. The return of Tyrone Wallace helped, and they’ve got two of the nation’s top freshmen Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb. But they’ve had their issues away from Berkeley, so we’ll see what they can do in Las Vegas.

Sleeper: USC

The Trojans have struggled a bit down the stretch, losing six of their final eight games of the regular season. That being said, USC’s offensive balance and tempo could lend itself to a run in Las Vegas. Jordan McLaughlin and Julian Jacobs make up a very good point guard duo, and the Trojans have capable scoring options both in the front court and on the perimeter (six players averaging double figures). They’ll need to keep the turnovers to a minimum, but Andy Enfield’s team is one to keep an eye on.

The Bubble Dwellers:

  • Colorado: The Buffs are in the field. But a loss to a bad Washington State team could make the wait more nerve-wracking than it should be.
  • Oregon State: The Beavers may have been overlooked by some when it comes to their NCAA tournament hopes. Beat Arizona State, and that should be enough.
  • USC: The Trojans arrive in Las Vegas in solid shape to land a bid. Avoiding a bad loss against UCLA in their tournament opener should be enough to make them feel comfortable.

Pac-12 Player of the Year: Jakob Poeltl, Utah

Poeltl was the preseason pick for the award, and despite Utah’s occasional issues on the perimeter he’s been very consistent for Larry Krystkowiak’s team. In conference play Poeltl averaged 17.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, shooting a Pac-12 best 62.4 percent from the field.

Pac-12 Coach of the Year: Dana Altman, Oregon

Three times in the last four seasons Altman’s won this honor, with this most recent award being for leading the Ducks to a regular season Pac-12 title. Oregon navigated injuries early in the season, most notably the loss of the player expected to run the point in Dylan Ennis, and found their groove in conference play when all healthy pieces were back in the fold. And in a season in which road teams had an incredibly hard time picking up wins on a consistent basis, Oregon was one of two teams to sweep two Pac-12 road trips this season (Utah being the other).

First-Team All Pac-12:

  • Jakob Poeltl, Utah(POY)
  • Andrew Andrews, Washington: Andrews has been the unquestioned leader for a very young squad, and in conference games he averaged 22.3 points (first in Pac-12) and 5.1 assists (third) per game.
  • Gary Payton II, Oregon State: Payton’s was named the league’s best defender for a second straight year, and there’s also his versatility. The senior ranked in the top ten in the league in rebounding (ninth), assists (first), steals (first) and assist-to-turnover ratio (third), and 11th in scoring.
  • Dillon Brooks, Oregon: As good as Brooks was as a freshman, he was even better this season. Averaging 17.1 points per game in Pac-12 play, Brooks was a serious contender for Pac-12 Player of the Year.
  • Ryan Anderson, Arizona: In his lone season on the court for Arizona, the Boston College transfer averaged 16.0 points and 10.2 rebounds per contest. He was one of two Pac-12 players to average a double-double in conference play (Washington State’s Josh Hawkinson).

Second Team All Pac-12:

  • Jaylen Brown, California
  • Rosco Allen, Stanford
  • Dejounte Murray, Washington
  • Elgin Cook, Oregon
  • Josh Scott, Colorado

Defining moment of the season: Oregon ends Arizona’s 49-game home win streak

CBT Prediction: Oregon’s the pick here, but it would not be a surprise if any of the top four teams left Vegas with the crown.

Big Ten Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

Indiana guard Yogi Ferrell smiles at the crowd as part of senior night festivities after an NCAA college basketball game against Maryland  in Bloomington, Ind., Sunday, March 6, 2016. Indiana won 80-62. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
(AP Photo/AJ Mast)

The Big Ten enters conference tournament week with some intriguing storylines after an unbalanced league schedule and a lot of competitive teams towards the top of the standings. Indiana took home the conference’s regular-season title by two full games, but the Hoosiers played a much weaker schedule than many of their top Big Ten counterparts as this conference tournament should truly tell us where Indiana is at heading into the Big Dance.

Michigan State is also peaking at the right time as Denzel Valentine looks like a potential National Player of the Year and the Spartans look like a major national-title contender. Besides the top two seeds, Maryland, Purdue, Iowa and Wisconsin will all try to improve their NCAA tournament seeding with strong showings in Indianapolis while Michigan and Ohio State try to do everything they can to claw their way into the at-large discussion.

The Bracket 


When: March 9-13

Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana

Final: Sunday, March 13, 3:00 p.m. (CBS)

Favorite: Michigan State

Would you want to bet against Michigan State in March? Yeah, me neither. The Spartans have won six consecutive games entering the Big Ten Tournament (by an average of 21.1 points per game) as they’re playing perhaps their best ball of the season. Denzel Valentine is one of the best players in the country, Bryn Forbes is a great second option and one of the nation’s best shooters and the Spartans might have more talent on this roster than last year’s Final Four team.

And if they lose?: Indiana

The No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, the Hoosiers played an easier schedule than some in the conference this season, but they still deserve plenty of credit for winning the league by two full games. Winners of five consecutive games, Indiana has improved immensely on the defensive end since the start of the season and they feature one of the most potent offenses in the country. Although Indiana is the No. 1 seed, they’re 0-1 against No. 2 seed Michigan State this season, suffering an 88-69 loss in East Lansing on Feb. 14.

Other Contenders:

  • Maryland: The Terps are 2-4 in their last six games, but they have enough talent to compete with any team in the league if they come together.
  • Purdue: Purdue’s front-court depth makes them a tough out in a tournament setting, but the Boilers have to hit perimeter shots to beat the Big Ten’s elite teams.

Sleeper: Wisconsin

Entering as the No. 6 seed, it’s hard to call the Badgers a “sleeper” in this since they’re safely in the NCAA tournament field, but they do have the kind of team that can make a run in Indianapolis. If the Badgers get Maryland in the quarterfinals, they gave the Terps everything they could handle in splitting during the regular season. Wisconsin also owns a win over the conference’s top two seeds, Indiana and Michigan State, this season.

The Bubble Dwellers:

  • Michigan: The Wolverines have dropped four of their last five entering the Big Ten Tournament. Michigan has to beat Northwestern in its opener on Thursday and then follow that up by beating No. 1 seed Indiana on Friday. Even if Michigan wins those first two games, they probably wouldn’t truly feel safe unless they win another game to make the tournament title game.
  • Ohio State: Ohio State is doing everything they can to stay relevant on Selection Sunday, but they’re going to have to win multiple games to get in as an at-large team. The Buckeyes have to beat Penn State on Thursday and probably need another win against Michigan State after that to even be considered. Much like rival Michigan, Ohio State is going to need as many wins as possible next week to feel comfortable as a credible at-large threat.

Big Ten Player of the Year: Denzel Valentine, Michigan State

The runaway winner of this award is Valentine, who is also a strong contender for National Player of the Year. The 6-foot-5 senior was simply dominant whenever he took the floor this season, as Valentine averaged 19.6 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game. While filling up the box score every night, Valentine was also ruthlessly efficient, as he improved all of his shooting splits from his junior season (47% FG, 84% FT, 45% 3PT). Besides putting up big numbers, Valentine is perhaps the country’s most important emotional leader, as he gives the Spartans the kind of attitude that makes them legitimate national title contenders when he’s on the floor.

Big Ten Coach of the Year: Greg Gard, Wisconsin

You could just as easily give this award to Indiana’s Tom Crean for the tremendous job he’s done this season, but Indiana was supposed to be good. Wisconsin was in shambles when Greg Gard took over for Bo Ryan on Dec. 15. It took awhile for the Badgers to adjust to the veteran assistant — and overcome the emotional departure of Ryan — but Gard has coached Wisconsin to the point of making a NCAA tournament at-large bid when they were only 9-9 on Jan. 12. That’s a remarkable turnaround, and now, the Badgers are a team that nobody wants to play in March again.

First-Team All-Big Ten:

  • Denzel Valentine, Michigan State (POY)
  • Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa: One of the nation’s most versatile forwards, the senior was top 15 in the Big Ten in scoring (second), rebounding (11th), free-throw percentage (ninth), 3-pointers made (13th) and blocked shots (first). Uthoff’s improvement made Iowa a legitimate threat in the Big Ten and he gave the Hawkeyes a rim protector that they needed.
  • A.J. Hammons, Purdue: Among Purdue’s loaded frontcourt, the senior was the toughest cover, as he averaged 15.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game in Big Ten play while shooting 57 percent from the floor. Hammons’ numbers are even more impressive when you consider the limited minutes that he played compared to many starting-caliber players in the Big Ten.
  • Yogi Ferrell, Indiana: Another senior to make the All-Big Ten first team, Ferrell was sensational as Indiana’s team leader and point guard. Ferrell continued to improve his all-around numbers while also stepping up as a better defender and team leader. During a season in which the pressure was on Ferrell to win, he guided Indiana to a Big Ten title.
  • Melo Trimble, Maryland: Although some of his numbers went down after a breakout freshman season, Trimble became more of a point guard in his second season in College Park. Trimble averaged 5.2 assists per game after only 3.0 per game as a freshman, as he had more weapons around him this season. Still one of the game’s great clutch players, Trimble has ice in his veins with the game on the line.

Second Team All-Big Ten:

  • Peter Jok, Iowa
  • Bryn Forbes, Michigan State
  • Malcolm Hill, Illinois
  • Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin
  • Matt Costello, Michigan State

Defining moment of the season: Indiana clinched the outright Big Ten title on Iowa’s home floor. It’s the second time in four years that Tom Crean has won an outright Big Ten regular season title.

CBT Prediction: Michigan State beats Indiana